Opinion: Why is this Debt Ceiling Fight So Important?

It’s hot in Washington, D.C., these days.   And I’m not just talking about the weather.  Congress and the President are locked in a heated debate on how best to raise our country’s debt ceiling.  The current ceiling is 14.3 trillion, and Washington is expected to slam into it Aug. 3.

To the casual observer of politics, the wrangling over the debt ceiling may look like nothing more than political theatrics and gamesmanship.  But the truth is that our country is in serious need of a wake-up call.  And not dealing with this fiscal crisis would be nothing short of irresponsible.  Kicking the can down the road will no longer do.

For far too long, our government has been racking up debt by spending unabashedly in government programs and services.  Both parties bear responsibility for the fiscal mess we’re in, but the President has certainly doubled down when it comes to government spending.  Beginning with his economic stimulus and then with his health care bill, the President has thrown spending caution to the wind.

Unfortunately for the President and his advisors, their spend-happy ways are catching up to them.  The painful reality is that we are accumulating more and more debt and the President is now confronting the reality that on August 2nd we will hit the limit.

The concept of a debt ceiling is essentially the maximum amount of debt a government can incur.  It is analogous to an individual’s personal credit card limit.  Of course, Washington’s big spenders have voted themselves an extraordinarily high limit: $14.3 trillion.  But even with that staggering line of credit, Washington is about to max out.

When you’re talking in terms of trillions, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers.  But, the fundamental questions our leaders must face are simple: How do we reduce government spending to reasonable levels to prevent our country from sinking deeper and deeper in debt?  Do we really want to pass along a mountain of debt even larger to our children and grandchildren?  And why is reducing our debt and government spending so important?

Let’s start with the latter question first.

Our country’s prosperity and high quality of life were not built on government spending.  Despite what you may have heard, the government does not create wealth.  Our country’s wealth was built by generations of immigrants, industrious workers who were innovators and entrepreneurs and who recognized the potential in our system of free enterprise.  Many of us today are immigrants attracted to this country by the promises of economic opportunity and economic mobility.  Debt hampers our country’s ability to grow and forcefully lead in a more globalized economy.

There will be fewer immigrants knocking on our doors if we continue to rack up debt.

When times are tough, reducing spending is just as necessary in government as it is in our families.  Cutting expenses is never as easy—or enjoyable—as spending, but living within your means is necessary for long-term prosperity.  We must begin by recognizing that our country doesn’t have an endless coffer of funds.  When we are told by politicians that Latinos will be most affected by cuts to government programs, we must ask ourselves if it’s in the best interest of our community to depend on a government that continues to irresponsibly bequeath our children and grandchildren a mountain of debt.

Israel Ortega is the Editor of The Heritage Foundation’s Spanish language page, Heritage Libertad, www.libertad.org   You can also follow him on Twitter: @IzzyOrtega